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Valentina Gaylord

Founder & Business Owner of The Lagree Studio, Compassion Foods, LLC & The LUV Bar 
Entrepreneur, Artist, Singer, Songwriter, Wife & Mother

I have always lived my life passionately, as for me there is truly no other way.  My passion for music, dance, fitness, and a healthy way of life began as a young child by virtue of ballet.  As a ballerina, I was able to express myself in ways that I could not with words.  For me, it was always the music that inspired me to become more, to reach further than my imagination could take me and beyond any limitations that I thought I had at that particular moment in time.  Music has always been an essential part of my life in many ways.

By the age of seven, I was fortunate enough to be discovered by Bonwit Teller and a Gloria Vanderbilt representative.  I began my career as a model, which led to etiquette school by the age of eight, charm school by the age of nine, and modeling agents in New York, Chicago, and Michigan.  I grew up in the fashion industry, surrounded by the top designers, so I was very excited to be part of this world.  My grandmother owned a clothing boutique on the Island of Malta, where I am from, and my mother was an executive for forty years in the fashion industry, working for Bonwit Teller and Saks Fifth Avenue.  By the time I was seventeen, I was ready to end my career in modeling; Elite Petite in New York was closing and I was five foot four on runways with six-foot tall models towering over me—that had to end eventually, right?

In my early twenties, and with my modeling career behind me, I moved to Southern California.  I was determined to be an artist, a writer, an attorney, and an entrepreneur.  I spent my first year in California working as a senior legal assistant––in the Corporate Compliance and Investigations, Military Aerospace division at Northrup Grumman––on a top-secret case that involved the F/A-18 and the B-2 Stealth Bomber and being mentored by their top attorney, who is still a close friend.  This was an incredibly fascinating time in my life, I was surrounded by brilliant people…it was quite inspiring!  Once that case had come to its conclusion, a Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent, whom I had worked closely with during that time, approached me.  He encouraged me to consider joining the Bureau as an agent.  I was intrigued by the possibility of becoming an agent and then eventually pursuing a career at the Central Intelligence Agency.  My passion was still music and becoming an artist, so I politely passed on that opportunity.

At that point, as an impressionable twenty-four-year-old, I knew that I needed a career while I was pursuing my dreams.  I took a position with CIBC World Markets, Corp., working in its high-yield division.  I found the financial industry absolutely fascinating and knew that it was going to be part of my life for many years to come!  A few years later, I was recruited by Colony Capital, LLC/The Halifax Group and two of the most powerful men in the private equity industry, who would not only mentor me but would teach me some of the most valuable lessons in my lifetime.  I was incredibly fortunate and excited about this industry, the opportunities, the firm, and all that it represented.  I was now working in high-yield leveraged finance for an international company with people that to this day I still love, admire, and hold dear to my heart and am still very close to.  During this time, I came to know, love & admire my Mentors and friends Thomas J. Barrack, Jr., William L. Rogers, David Bonderman and Joseph F. Coyne, Jr.

In 2004, the firm was decentralizing to Europe, so I took some time off to finally write, coproduce, and release my first album.  Finally, it would be about the music!  I was living on a cliff in Malibu, California, overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean with my Baldwin piano, my Martin acoustic, and my pink Stratocaster always on hand.  I was always inspired to play, but until that point, never had the time, as my schedule was literally 24/7/365.  Any free time that I had was spent running the track at Pepperdine University, working out in my home gym, or trying to catch a Pilates class in Brentwood, California, on my way home from my office in Century City in order to stay fit and healthy. “Can you say Type A?”

Now it was finally time to take my lifelong passion for music and bring it to life.  I spent much of 2004 working with my producers prior to recording my album.  My goal was to complete my album in California within six weeks and then move to Europe to release it.  My album was inspired by world music and included over 120 musicians from several different countries, the Venerable Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen, lead by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso and Don Augustine, a Shaman from Ecuador.  I have dual citizenship, American and European, and had always imagined releasing my album overseas surrounded by my family and friends who live there.  I was just about ready to record for the next six weeks while preparing for my move to Paris, France in January 2005, and as fate would have it, I met my husband, Mitch.  Yes, it was love at first site for both of us and we were married within six months.  Thankfully, he was naturally very supportive and encouraging when it came to my passion for music and fitness!  I had finished my album in six weeks as I had planned to, but the move to Paris, France, to release it did not happen.  I needed a new strategy.  Together, we found representation for my album at Sanctuary, and we had it in the hands of the top executives at Universal Music Group.  I thought I had found my new path to releasing my album, and then the music industry started to change, so I decided to put my album on hold.  I was newly married to a wonderful man and in a situation that nothing in my life up to that point could have ever prepared me for.

The years had passed and my husband and I had decided to have children.  I was determined to have our children at Hoag Hospital in a suite overlooking the ocean . . . my sanctuary, so to speak.  So, we left my home in Malibu and moved to Newport Beach, California.  I soon became pregnant with our daughter Valletta, who was due on Valentine’s Day 2009.  After Thanksgiving, I began to have complications, and we were told on Christmas Eve that she only had a 10 percent chance of survival and that we should make other arrangements for her.  We were devastated but had faith that she would survive and that she would be that 10 percent.  On December 26, 2008, she was born via an emergency cesarean.  The next six weeks in the NICU were an emotional roller coaster for our family and close friends.  The doctors and nurses at Hoag Hospital and at CHOC were absolutely amazing!  Both hospitals referred to her as a miracle, and we could not agree with them more!  She was finally able to come home, and it was now time for me to begin my journey back to health and healing.

This is when I found Lagree Fitness!  I had noticed signs for a new studio called Pilates Plus OC opening up in Newport Beach close to where we lived.  I have always loved Pilates but knew that I needed something much more intense in order to get back in shape.  I had absolutely no core strength at the time and was looking for something powerful enough to rebuild my core, my mind, my body, my soul—you name it!  So, I decided to sign up and see just what Lagree Fitness was made of.  Well, it was LOVE at first class!  The MegaFormer was unlike anything that I had ever seen before.  This was not Pilates, but it had the therapeutic elements of Pilates and was exactly what I needed.  As the workout was based on core strength, I knew that I would be incredibly challenged.  Faced with the realization that this was not going to be an easy road back and that it was going to take some time, I spoke with the instructor before class about my surgery.  She gave me some valuable advice.  She told me to take a class every day, and within ten days, I would notice my core strength starting to come back.  I was in love with Lagree Fitness and determined to see if she was correct in her assessment.  I went home inspired, motivated, and in a lot of pain (the good kind) and told my husband that I wanted to open up one of these studios to ensure that it would always be in my life.  I did as the instructor advised and went to the 6:00 a.m. class every day, holding back the tears and silently telling myself that I can and will do this.  After ten days, she was right!  I was feeling stronger, the pain in my abdomen was lessening, and my soul was rejuvenating!  I absolutely loved the group classes and had to take one every day!  Thanks to Lagree Fitness, it took two and a half months to recover completely from my surgery and three months to get my body back!  During that time, I was fortunate enough to meet Sebastien Lagree, the visionary and creator of Lagree Fitness.  He was incredibly humble, gracious, and intensely passionate about his creation—it was endearing and inspiring.  I thanked him profusely for his creation and told him that I hoped to open a studio of my own some day.

Soon after, I became pregnant with our son Luc.  I went to class almost every day during my pregnancy.  I simply could not get enough!  After Luc was born, we moved to Texas.  Upon our arrival in Texas, we were met by some of the kindest people that we have ever known, which was quite welcoming and refreshing!  The first thing I did, after we got our family settled into our new home, was search for a Lagree Fitness Studio close to where we were living.  I was absolutely astounded!  Not one Lagree Fitness Studio anywhere to be found!  My plan, after moving to Texas, was to recover from the life that we had left behind us, enjoy my family, get back into shape via my beloved Lagree Fitness, get back into the financial industry, record another album, and raise our children in a safe and healthy environment.  Not too much to ask for, right?

I set out to do exactly that.  Then, soon after our move to Texas, I passed my Series 7 and my Series 66 and became a financial advisor working for Morgan Stanley and then moving on to Merrill Lynch.  The only part that was missing was my music and a Lagree Fitness Studio that I could go to every day—my sanctuary, so to speak!  Lagree Fitness Studios were starting to open up in Texas, which I was so excited by, but none of them were less than an hour drive away from our home in North Fort Worth.  Much like most people, my time is so limited that I needed to get the most out of a workout in the least amount of time, and Lagree Fitness was the ONLY way that I knew how to accomplish this!  Lagree Fitness, to me, is not just a workout, it was an essential part of my life, and I needed it back—desperately!  I also knew that there were people out there, just like me, who needed the same solution, so I reached out to Sebastien Lagree, we moved our family to Austin, and the Lagree Studio in Bee Cave, Texas, came to be.  Now, almost one year later, I have teamed up with Hope Smith to brand The Lagree Studio.  We are opening our second location in Downtown Austin in December 2015!

My conclusion is this: Finding yourself again or even for the first time is a very powerful thing.  Having a healthy mind, a healthy body, and a healthy soul is truly the foundation to a fabulous life.  It all begins within.

My hope is that The Lagree Studio’s will inspire people and change people’s lives in the way that it has mine and continues to do so!  We will share with you an amazing workout and music from all over the world in hopes to inspire you, revitalize your soul, and embrace or recapture your passion for life, love, health, wellness, and fitness!

See you on the Megaformer!

Passionately,

Valentina